Seeking to strengthen its position in the highly competitive midsize sedan segment, a significantly enhanced 2014 Chevrolet Malibu will roll into showrooms this fall sporting a broad range of improvements that touch virtually every area of the package. Although fully redesigned for 2013, the Malibu has proven considerably less successful at winning the hearts and minds of buyers than Chevy had hoped. However, this latest round of comprehensive revamps should materially help its cause against prime rivals like the Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda Mazda6, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry.

Visual changes to the 2014 Malibu's exterior are confined to the front end, which borrows cues from the full-size 2014 Impala. An extended hood and more prominent grille openings filled with new black inserts trimmed in chrome add style, while also bringing it more into line with the rest of the division's sedan offerings. Inside, the modifications are more functional in nature. The key upgrade is an additional 1.25 inches of rear knee room that comes from reshaped front seatbacks teamed with a redesigned/recontoured rear cushion that's shorter and also allows passengers to sit deeper in the seat. An extended center armrest makes it more user-friendly, while two cupholders and a dedicated stow area for two cell phones have been added to the console.

While the Malibu Eco with its 182-horsepower/2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine and eAssist system carries over directly from 2013, the two other 4-cylinder engines benefit from specific upgrades that bolster economy and performance. The base 197-horse/2.5-liter engine adds new Intake Valve Lift Control (iVLC) that helps bolster low-end torque, and also gains new start/stop technology that helps raise its EPA city/highway marks by one unit each to 23/35 mpg. Recalibration of the Malibu's optional 259-horse/2.0-liter turbo engine yields a heady 14-percent bump in torque, which moves that figure from 260 lb-ft to a best-in-class 295 lb-ft. The computerized mapping in the 6-speed automatic also has been modified to net quicker, better shifts.

The 2014 Impala also served as the inspiration for a series of modest but meaningful revamps to the Malibu's ride and handling. New rebound springs in its retuned struts/shocks help deliver a smoother ride while reducing the Malibu's body roll and weight transfer in corners. An increased effort level of its electric power steering delivers better feedback to the driver, while modifications to the brake system create a more confident pedal feel. Finally, the Malibu will offer two new safety features for 2014: Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Safety Alert.

Pricing and final EPA numbers for the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu will be released closer to its official on-sale date.

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